By Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO, Dec 5 – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday he will visit Pearl Harbor this month with U.S. President Barack Obama “to console the souls” of victims of Japan’s surprise attack on U.S. forces there 75 years ago.
Abe, who will be the first serving Japanese prime minister to visit the naval base in Hawaii, said he wanted to demonstrate resolve to end the horror of war.
This year, Obama become the first serving U.S. president to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which the United States attacked with an atomic bomb in 1945.
“I’ll visit Pearl Harbor with President Obama. This will be a visit to console the souls of the victims,” Abe told reporters.
“I would like to show to the world the resolve that horrors of war should never be repeated.”
Abe will visit Hawaii on Dec. 26 and 27 and plans to hold his final summit meeting with the outgoing U.S. president during the trip.
Obama has close ties to Hawaii, the island state where he was born and where he and his family have vacationed throughout his White House term.
Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor with torpedo planes, bombers and fighter planes on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, bombing the U.S. fleet moored there, in the hope of destroying U.S. power in the Pacific.
The attack led to the United States entering World War Two and the defeat of Japan in August 1945, days after U.S. atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The White House said Abe’s visit would highlight the alliance between the former wartime enemies.
“The two leaders’ visit will showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies, united by common interests and shared values,” the White House said in a statement.
Abe last year spoke to the U.S. Congress and expressed “deep repentance” over Japan’s role in World War Two.
Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japan campus, said an outright apology from Abe would be unlikely during his Pearl Harbor visit.
“He won’t go as far as to apologize, but there will be a demonstration of contrition. He will follow Obama’s model (in Hiroshima). Obama has shown the way forward in addressing the past without whitewashing and denying,” Kingston said.
In Hiroshima, Obama reiterated his commitment to pursuing a world without nuclear weapons, while avoiding any direct expression of remorse or apology for the U.S. nuclear bombings.
“I think Abe wants to draw a line under history and move forward with (President-elect Donald) Trump and get some difficult obstacles out of the way. It’s probably an astute move on Abe’s part,” Kingston said.